Saturday, August 15, 2015

Metaphysical Daring as a Posthuman Survival Strategy

For those of you who have been holding off on getting your brains destructively uploaded, I have a couple of bits of good news. There's a new video and a paper draft available for my project, "Metaphysical Daring as a Posthuman Survival Strategy," forthcoming in a special issue of Midwest Studies in Philosophy on science fiction and philosophy edited by Eric Schwitzgebel. Gander at the draft at this link. Here's the abstract:
Believing that one can survive having one’s mind “uploaded” to a computer (while having one’s brain destroyed) may be better than the contrary belief in a sense of “better” determined independently of the belief’s truth. Different metaphysical views about a person’s persistence conditions can be ordered on a scale ranging from extremes of metaphysical daring to extremes of metaphysical timidity. Further, the adoption of more daring metaphysical views may confer survival advantages to posthuman adopters and their descendants. Regardless of whether their views are true, the metaphysically timid who refuse to upload may go extinct and be supplanted by their more daring posthuman descendants. This possibility can serve as a basis for contemporary humans to endorse posthumanist values and projects, including a willingness to subjecting themselves to mind uploading procedures.
The video has just been made available by the University of Texas, Arlington, where I presented this stuff in 2014. If you want to skip around in the video, here are the main landmarks: Kenneth Williford's very nice introduction ends around 03:20. Following the talk is a Q-and-A that starts around 31:39.

Hermanns Lecture Series 2014 - Philitechia - Dr. Pete Mandik from English Department, UTA on Vimeo.

And here's an interview with me about this stuff from "Upload Your Mind and Live Forever."

(Cross-posted at Brain Hammer.)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Interview of me on mind uploading

"Upload Your Mind and Live Forever" is an interview of me on mind uploading over at


Well, part of what I’m trying to say is that, like most metaphysical debates, this is going to be irresoluble by argumentation. There’s really nothing that pure reason is going to allow us to settle one way or another. All the evidence that we have we all tend to agree on. That evidence just underdetermines whether computers could have conscious experiences or whether they would be mere copies or actual survival of personal identity.
What I try to do as a way of resolving that metaphysical impasse is to look at it from a Darwinian or evolutionary point of view. The basic point of Darwinian evolution applies to any kind of system where you have things that are replicating and various degrees of fitness that would apply to the things that are reproducing. On this kind of abstract characterization, we could describe various hypothetical systems as having features that would be more fit.
Now one of the features that these computer simulations would have is something we could describe as being belief-like. In particular, these things are going to have the belief that they are going to survive the procedure. Now the metaphysical debate is about whether that belief is true, and what I’m trying to argue is that we can say, regardless of whether that belief is true, that belief would have survival value. Physical systems that have that belief are more likely to make more copies of themselves than physical systems that lack that belief.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ECHOPRAXIA, Peter Watt's sequel to BLINDSIGHT

One of my all-time favorite cogsci-fi novels, Peter Watt's Blindsight (previously here and here) has a sequel now. It's Echopraxia, and this review makes it sound pretty terrific.

I'm stoked! Anyone else read it?

Explanation of the title from the review:

As for zombies, they are simply people whose higher thought processes have been turned off. This is done either by surgery, or as a side-effect of bioengineered viral plagues. Zombies function autonomically, without conscious awareness. Their mental apparatus is “reduced to fight/flight/fuck” basic responses. They make great soldiers and sex slaves, because they follow orders unquestioningly. They are in fact subject to the malady that gives the novel its title:  “echopraxia”  is the condition in which a person compulsively imitates someone else’s actions and behavior. When they are not under hierarchical control, they simply imitate one another, and go on rampages like in the movies.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Sci-Fi Author Roger Williams at SpaceTimeMind

One of the projects I've been highly absorbed in lately is the new podcast and video series, SpaceTimeMind, that I'm co-hosting with Richard Brown. There's a lot of overlap in themes between SpaceTimeMind and the Alternate Minds project. See, for instance, our 5th episode, Transhumanism and Existentialism. Especially pertinent is our latest installment, our interview with Roger Williams, author of The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect (discussed previously here and here).

Monday, January 6, 2014

Searching the Internet for evidence of time travelers

Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey.
Two physicists from Michigan Technological University, Robert J Nemiroff and Teresa Wilson, have written an article, Searching the Internet for evidence of time travelers.

Time travel has captured the public imagination for much of the past century, but little has been done to actually search for time travelers. Here, three implementations of Internet searches for time travelers are described, all seeking a prescient mention of information not previously available. The first search covered prescient content placed on the Internet, highlighted by a comprehensive search for specific terms in tweets on Twitter. The second search examined prescient inquiries submitted to a search engine, highlighted by a comprehensive search for specific search terms submitted to a popular astronomy web site. The third search involved a request for a direct Internet communication, either by email or tweet, pre-dating to the time of the inquiry. Given practical verifiability concerns, only time travelers from the future were investigated. No time travelers were discovered. Although these negative results do not disprove time travel, given the great reach of the Internet, this search is perhaps the most comprehensive to date.

(ht: Maureen Eckert)


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